|Interior of the Colosseum in Rome|
I am surprised to a point by the prominence of these posters and the large following that UFC has developed. Many people I know block off UFC nights on their calendars so that no other event can displace it. It seems that modern bloodsport is alive and well in our society, be it bull fighting in Spain or UFC in America. “Bread and circuses” as the saying went. Gone are the theatrical, chair-smashing displays of the WWF – what folks want is the real deal, a good punch to the head and some blood on the floor.
|Spartacus: Blood and Sand|
Actor Andy Whitfield as Spartacus
I do the show an injustice however, by suggesting that it is popular purely for its sensational gore and sexual play. Beyond that is some solid research into the function of a ludus (gladiatorial school), the role and popularity of the gladiatorial games and the gladiators themselves, both gods and slaves at the same time. One will meet the ‘editor’ of the games, the ‘lanista’ too, and see how gladiatorial contests, after their original role as funerary rituals, were one of the most effective political weapons to be wielded in efforts to win the favour of the Roman mob. These are not however, the gladiators of Stanley Kubric’s epic Spartacus, as wonderful as that movie is.
|Kirk Douglas as Spartacus|
|Jean Leon Gerome's famous painting|
Would it not be better to intersperse tension with calm, with peace? As a writer I prefer to lull my audience a bit before hitting them over the head, the impact being much more memorable. Conversely, following a tense moment with calm can provide some needed relief and reflection. Spartacus: Blood and Sand balances tension and calm beautifully, all wrapped in a great story and though it is made in a visual medium, the same can, depending on your personal tastes, be done effectively in writing.
If Gladiators are your thing, an excellent reference book that looks at the history of gladiatorial combat and the various styles of gladiators is Gladiators and Caesars: The Power of Spectacle in Ancient Rome, edited by Eckart Kohne and Cornelia Ewigleben. It’s a very accessible look into the lives and myth of gladiators and the power they held over the people of ancient Rome, as they do over us today.
|Amphitheatre of Thysdrus (El Jem)|
Tunisia, North Africa